kumquat-cookies-blog-074C-1024x683How can anyone resist tart and tiny kumquats, sitting so cute and bright in the produce department at the grocery store? They just look happy. I buy them every year as soon as they make their first seasonal appearance. I never have a plan for them when I set them in my basket, but it doesn’t matter. I buy the organic kumquats, rinse them well and, after I’ve cut the stem ends off, I pop them into my mouth one after the other, as if they were orange jelly beans.

Yes, these little cuties are totally edible, although they do have seeds hiding inside that seem large for such a tiny fruit. To remove seeds, slice kumquats in half and squeeze them gently and the seeds will pop out.

The skin is tender and sweet, while the flesh can be dry and very tart, compared with oranges. Kumquats that are soft will be less juicy, but they are perfectly acceptable for most uses. Store them in a plastic bag in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator for up to three weeks. One kumquat has about 12 calories and is a good source of vitamin C.

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common_loon_2.jpgAs the sun rises over the chain of glacier-formed lakes, I revel in the beauty outside my window and the smells and sounds outside my door. It is so beautiful I want to take this moment to tell you about it.  The beavers swim by half an hour before sunrise on their way to work and this doesn’t include freeway commuting, just a gentle swim to their hut nearly a quarter mile away. Then all the birds start their morning songs, the Osprey flies by casting a coppery shadow across my ceiling as the sun starts to rise. The loons are soulfully singing in the near distance and a single loon fishes diligently in the cove. It promises to be an even more beautiful day than yesterday. Spring is springing in all its glory!
I ready my kayak and head out onto the glistening water just as the sun peaks over the trees on the opposite shore. A gentle clinging fog hovers just on the water’s surface. I paddle toward the Osprey nest at the mouth of the wetland where wood ducks, frogs and budding water plants congregate. I check the Osprey nest to make sure the baby bird is doing well as both parents fly overhead, yelping a couple of hundred feet above. Paddling along the shore, I am always amazed at how Mother Nature is the greatest landscaper. The rocks and boulders are arranged with care and thought. The water is a deep intense blue, the fog is lifting, the sun is getting warm on my face and the quiet sounds of early morning with no one else around are what endears me to this place in Maine.
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roastedasparagusSide dishes are the key to making every meal a hit. They are essentially the glue that holds dinner 
together. Roasted asparagus is by far Spring's quintessential veggie and this mustard-dill vinaigrette 
just takes it up a notch! Now, having said that, asparagus can be the quintessential enemy of wine.

This vegetable is a member of the lily family and contains the sulfurous amino acid known as 
methionine. This chemical compound is the culprit that causes the notorious "asparagus-pee" effect 
known to many who can smell it, not everyone can. Lucky them.

When methionine is coupled with asparagus' already green and grassy flavors, it can make wine 
taste dank, metallic, thin and even bitter. Overall, it's not good.

The only way to work against this collision of taste buds is to prepare the asparagus a certain way or 
drink the right wine varietal with this wonderful Spring vegetable.

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asparagusMDBurgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit salads are Memorial Day classics. I look forward to those favorites but to keep them interesting, it's good to add something new and a little unexpected.

When I was growing up, asparagus was one of the fancy vegetables. Carrots, corn and broccoli were the everyday vegetables. Asparagus was saved for special occasions. These days asparagus is affordable, easy-to-prepare and versatile.

Right now asparagus is plentiful in farmers markets. Nutritious, delicious and loaded with healthy minerals, asparagus can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as a salad or a side dish to add zest to a backyard barbecue or afternoon lunch.

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heartsofromaineGoing out to eat has many pleasures, not the least of which is learning a new trick to add to your own repertoire at home.

Recently at Il Fornaio, during the Lazio Regionale, we had Lattuga Romana alla Griglia or lightly grilled hearts of romaine topped with shaved pecorino pepato and Il Fornaio's creamy house dressing.

The rest of the menu was terrific, but the real stand out was the deceptively simple grilled hearts of romaine.

The dish is easy to make at home. So easy, in fact, you can serve it on the spur of the moment because it takes barely fifteen minutes to prepare.

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